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Graham: The loss of John McCain will not alter military oversight on the Hill

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) delivers a tribute on the Senate Floor to Senator John McCain (R-AZ): "He failed a lot, but he never quit. And the reason we're talking about him today and the reason I'm crying is because he was successful in spite of his failures."
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By CLAUDIA GRISALES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 28, 2018

WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday that the Senate Armed Services Committee will continue its strong military oversight despite the loss of Sen. John McCain.

Graham, who is a member of the Senate panel, made his comments to reporters following an emotional tribute on the Senate floor to McCain, who was the Armed Services Committee chairman. The Arizona Republican, who died Saturday, was known for his tenacious oversight of the military and relentless grilling of its top leaders.

“John McCain was a soldier’s best friend and the Pentagon’s worst nightmare,” said Graham, R-S.C. “I’d like to name the Pentagon after him just to get back at everybody.”

McCain died at the age of 81 at his ranch in Arizona, following a 13-month battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

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“When it came to the Pentagon, [McCain] was a ferocious reformer and he loved nothing more than getting in the… budget,” Graham said. “So we’re going to have to take that up.”

In the months that followed his cancer diagnosis, McCain undertook a political tour de force, holding hearings in the wake of deadly Navy ship collisions last year, grilling top Pentagon nominees, fighting defense spending cuts and railing on waste in the military, among other efforts.

Graham, an Air Force veteran who served as an officer and judge advocate, took to the Senate floor to eulogize his longtime friend, who he regularly joined as part of congressional delegations to visit troops overseas in recent years.

Graham said the two often joked about how McCain wished they had attended the U.S. Naval Academy together. McCain barely graduated from the academy due to his partying ways and rebellious streak, and graduated fifth from the bottom of his class.

“If you’d been in my class, I’d graduated sixth from the bottom, not fifth,” Graham recounted McCain telling him.

Reading from handwritten notes, Graham said it was tough to articulate a tribute to McCain, and looked at it as writing an “after action report,” like ones required during his military days.

“Those in the military adored this man,” he said, at times standing near McCain’s desk, which has been marked this week by a black cloth and bouquet of white flowers. “John will inspire courage. He will reinforce the idea nothing is inevitable as long as a few people are willing to fight for what they believe is right.”

Graham is slated to take part in a series of events this week to honor McCain. They will begin in Arizona with a “lying-in-state” ceremony at the state Capitol Wednesday followed by a funeral service at his longtime church. He will then be honored at the U.S. Capitol on Friday during a “lying-in-state” service, followed by funeral services Saturday at the Washington Cathedral, where former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama are scheduled to speak.

On Sunday, McCain will be buried at the Naval Academy cemetery near his late friend Adm. Charles Larson.

Graham recalled one of his last conversations with McCain last month that focused on how the Armed Services Committee would carry the senator’s mantle without him.

McCain told him, “Boy, you got to keep it going,” Graham recalled.

Graham acknowledged he has his “own profile,” but McCain was his mentor.

“That’s one of my promises to him,” he said. “I told him I’m going to do my part. That’s one area where we need to get through to people…really need to make sure the Pentagon knows we appreciate what they do, but we’re watching them.”

grisales.claudia@stripes.com
Twitter: @cgrisales

Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., with Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills make their way off the Patrol Base Jaker landing zone during a visit to Afghanistan in 2010.
MARK FAYLOGA/U.S. MARINE CORPS

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